Glossary of Learning Disability Terms

Attention Control System: A group of controls that work in concert to regulate the functions in the brain. Attention allows control and regulation of thinking and learning as well as behavior and social interaction.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): A term frequently used to describe the academic and behavioral problems of children who have difficulty focusing and maintaining attention. Also, refered to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Auditory Discrimination: Ability to detect differences in sounds, such as detecting the differences between the noises made by a cat and dog, or detecting the differences made by the sounds of letters "m" and "n."

Auditory Memory: Ability to retain information which has been presented orally; may be short term memory, such as recalling information presented several seconds before; long term memory, such as recalling information presented more than a minute before; or sequential memory, such as recalling a series of information in proper order.

Basic Skill Area: Includes such subjects as reading, writing, spelling and mathematics.

Conceptual Disorder: Disturbances in thinking, reasoning, generalizing, memorizing

Cognitive Ability: Intellectual ability; thinking and reasoning skills.

Cognitive Impulsivity: A tendency to perform intellectual or academic tasks too quickly and without planning.

Declarative Memory: The system through which factual knowledge is entered, sustained and recalled.

Decoding: The process of getting meaning from written or spoken symbols.

Distractibility: The shifting of attention from the task at hand to sounds, sights, and other stimuli that normally occur in the environment.

Dyscalculia: Difficulty in understanding and using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.

Dsygraphia: A difficulty in producing handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed.

Dyslexia: The term dyslexia comes from the Greek root word "dys" (trouble) and "lexia" (word). Trouble-with-words is neurologically based and often familial. Dyslexic individuals are intelligent, yet have difficulty with language: reading, spelling, writing. Dyslexia is not a result of lack of motivation, sensory impairment or other conditions. A dyslexic brain is structured and functions differently than a lexic brain (easy-to-words). A dyslexic is often highly strategic and creative in their cognitive abilities. Dyslexics respond successfully to appropriate instruction; however, reading is seldom a favorite past time.

Dysarthria: A disorder of the speech muscles that affects the ability to pronounce words.

Dysnomia: Difficulty remembering names or recalling words needed for oral or written language.

Dyspraxia: Difficulty drawing, writing, buttoning and other tasks requiring fine motor skill, or in sequencing the necessary movement to perform a task.

Early Intervention Program: A program specially designed to assist developmentally delayed infants and pre-school children. The purpose of this type of program is to help prevent problems as the child matures.

Educational Consultant/Diagnostician: An individual who may be familiar with school curriculum and requirements at various grade levels; may or may not have a background in learning disabilities; may conduct educational evaluations.

Educational Evaluation: One of the components necessary to determine whether a child is handicapped. Although the specific content of an educational evaluation is not specified by the regulations, the evaluation generally consists of a battery of tests and/or classroom observation and analysis of class work designed to determine the current levels of achievement in areas such as reading, math, spelling, etc. Perceptual abilities and learning style may also be evaluated.

Educational Psychologist: See School Psychologist

Eligibility Committee: Determines (1) whether a child has a learning difficulty which requires special education, and in some cases, related services such as speech and language therapy; (2) identifies the condition and recommends the special education and related services. The Eligibility Committee is composed of a special education administrator or a person representing the administrator and school division personnel representing the disciplines involved in the conduct of the evaluation (e.g., psychologists, educational diagnosticians). At least one school division representative must be a person who tested or observed the student.

Encoding: The process of expressing language (i.e., selecting words; formulating them into ideas; producing them through speaking or writing).

Expressive Language Skills: The ability to communicate thoughts or ideas in a concise, grammatically correct and fluent manner.

Haptic Sense: Combined kinesthetic and tactile sense.

Higher Order Cognition: An impressive range of thinking skills which include concept formation, problem solving, rule interpretation and metacognition.

Hyperkinesis: Another term for hyperactivity.

Hyperactivity (or Hyperkinesis): Disorganized and disruptive behavior characterized by constant and excessive movement. A hyper-active child usually has difficulty sticking to one task for an extended period and may react more intensely to a situation than a normal child.

Hyperlexia: The term Hyperlexia comes for the work "hyper" meaning "above normal" and the Greek root "lexia" meaning "word." Hyperlexics have an above average ability to decode words and read in a fluent manner. Their difficulty is the ability to comprehend the material that they have read.

Hypoactivity: Under-activity; child may appear to be in a daze, lacking energy.

IEP: See Individualized Education Plan (or Program).

IEP Committee: Writes the Individualized Education Program for the youngster who has been identified by the Eligibility Committee as learning challenged. Members are (1 ) a school division employee, other than the student's teacher, who is qualified to provide or supervise special education; (2) the student's teacher(s); (3) the parent or guardian (4) the student, if appropriate; and (5) other individuals whom the parents or the school division select.

Impulsivity: Reacting to a situation without considering the consequences.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A written educational prescription developed for each learning-disabled child. Sometimes called an Individualized Education Program. School districts are required by law to develop these plans, in cooperation with parents

IQ: Intelligence quotient. The ratio between a person's chronological age (measured in years) and mental age (as measured by an intelligence test), multiplied by 100.

Learning Disabilities: Difficulties of the basic psychological processes that affect the way a child learns. Many children have average or above average intelligence. Learning difficulties are often observed in listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling and math computation. (Excluded are learning difficulties caused by visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, emotional disturbances or environmental disadvantages.)

Learning Style: The channels through which a person best understands and retains learning. All individuals learn best through one or more channels: vision, hearing, movement, touching, or a combination of these.

Lexic: The term "lexic" comes from the Greek root "word." A lexic reader is a reader who has acquired all the skills necessary to decode, read fluently and comprehend at a chronological age level.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist: A psychologist who is competent to apply the principles and techniques of psychological evaluation and psychotherapy to individual clients for the purpose of ameliorating problems of behavioral and/or emotional maladjustment.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker: A social worker who, by education and experience, is professionally qualified to provide direct diagnostic, preventive and treatment services where functioning is threatened or affected by social and psychological stress or health impairment.

Licensed Professional Counselor: A person trained in counseling and guidance services with emphasis on individual and group guidance and counseling; assists individuals in achieving more effective personal, social, educational, and career development and adjustment.

Linguistic Approach: Method for teaching reading (decoding skills) which emphasizes use of word families. For example, the child is taught to read and is subsequently taught to decode words such as "cat," "bat," "sat," "mat," etc. Early stories adhere strictly to the words which have been taught previously and so may sometimes seem nonsensical, e.g., "Sam sat on a mat. The cat sat on a mat. The cat is fat," etc.

Mainstreaming: The practice of placing children with special educational needs into regular classrooms for at least a part of the children's school programs.

Maturation Lag: Delayed maturity in one or several skills or areas of development.

Mental Age: The age for which a given score on a mental ability test is average or normal. The term is most appropriately used at the early age levels where mental growth is rapid.

Milieu Therapy: A clinical technique designed to control a child's environment and minimize conflicting and confusing information.

Multi-disciplinary Team: In education, a group made up of a child's classroom teacher and several educational specialists that evaluates the child's handicap and prepares an Individualized Education Plan for the child.

Neurological Examination: Testing of the sensory or motor responses to determine if there is impairment of the nervous system.

Norms: Statistics that provide a frame of reference by which meaning may be given to test scores. Norms are based upon the actual performance of pupils of various grades or ages in the standardization group for the test. Since they represent average or typical performance, they should not be regarded as standards or universally desirable levels of attainment. The most common types of norms are standard scores such as IQ, percentile rank, grade or age equivalents.

Perceptual Abilities: The abilities to process, organize, and interpret the information obtained by the five senses; a function of the brain.

Perceptual Speed: Specific meaning of this term varies, depending upon the manner in which a given test measures this ability. May refer to motor speed, how fast something is copied or manipulated, or to visual discrimination, e.g., how quickly identical items in a given series are identified, etc.

Perseveration: The repeating of words, motions, or tasks. A child who perseverates often has difficulty shifting to a new task and continues working on an old task long after classmates have stopped.

Phonics Approach: Method for teaching reading and spelling that emphasizes learning the sounds which individual and various combinations of letters make in a word. In decoding a word, the child sounds out individual letters or letter combinations and then blends them to form a word.

Phonological Awareness: The ability to clearly perceive and effectively manipulate the sounds of language. This ability is critical for reading and spelling.

Practical Sequences: The ability to utilize and recall "chains" of events such as days of the week, class schedules, etc.

Psychiatrist: A licensed medical doctor (M.D.) who treats behavioral or emotional problems, who is permitted to use medications to treat a problem.

Psychological Examination: An evaluation by a certified school or clinical psychologist of the intellectual and behavioral characteristics of a person.

Psychomotor: Pertaining to the motor effects of psychological processes. Psychomotor tests are tests of motor skill which depend upon sensory or perceptual motor coordination.

Reasoning Ability: Specific meaning of this term varies, depending upon the manner in which a given test measures this ability; generally refers to non-verbal, deductive, inductive, analytical thinking.

Remediation: Instruction offered to individuals to help develop and strengthen weak or non-existant skills.

Receptive Language Skills: The ability to understand, process and comprehend spoken language.

Scatter: Variability in an individual's test scores.

School Psychologist: A person who specializes in problems manifested in and associated with educational systems and who uses psychological concepts and methods in programs which attempt to improve learning conditions for students.

SEA: State Education Agency (the state Department of Education).

Semantic Memory: The memory system that is operational in learning/education where information is entered, retained and retrieved from memory.

Sight Words: Words a child can recognize on sight without aid of phonics or other word-attack skills.

Sight Word Approach: Also known as whole word approach; method for teaching reading which relies heavily upon a child's visual memory skills, with minimal emphasis on sounding out a word; child memorizes the word based on its overall configuration.

Specific Language Disability (SLD): Difficulty in some aspect of learning how to read, write, spell, or speak. Is also called Specific Language Learning Disability.

Standardized Test: A test that compares a child's performance with the performance of a large group of similar children (usually children of the same age). Also called a norm-referenced test. IQ tests and most achievement tests are standardized.

SLD: Specific learning disability. Difficulty in certain areas of learning is contrasted with a general learning disability, i.e., difficulty in all areas of learning. Learning disabilities as discussed in this handbook are SLD. (SLD is also sometimes interpreted as Specific Language Disability.)

Verbal Ability: Specific meaning of this term varies, depending upon the manner in which a given test measures this ability. Generally refers to oral or spoken language abilities.

Visual/Auditory Memory: The process through which linguistic or other auditory signals are preserved in memory.

Visual/Spacial Memory: The process through which spatial or visual pathways are preserved in memory.

Word Attack Skills: Ability to analyze unfamiliar words visually and phonetically.

Word Recognition: Ability to read or pronounce a word; usually implies that the word is recognized immediately by sight and that the child does not need to apply word analysis skills. Does not imply understanding of the word.

Word Retrieval: A neuro-developmental function entailing the rapid and precise encoding of ideas into specific words.